Higher Education Quick Takes
In a highly unusual move, the president of Hocking College on Tuesday sent out an e-mail newsletter in which he attacked his board and said that its members were trying to undercut him, The Athens News reported. Ron Erickson, the president of the Ohio college, said that board members were micromanaging decisions, ignoring agreements on how the president and board could work together and planning to replace him. Board members denied wrongdoing, and some criticized the president for making a public statement as he did.
The American Federation of Teachers released a report Tuesday on how colleges, universities and faculty unions can help recruit and retain women professors. The authors review data illustrating that women comprise a relatively small share of the faculty (both in various disciplines and overall) even though they represent the majority of undergraduate students and doctorate-earners. The paper also lists several policies and approaches that administrators can pursue to better promote gender equity in the professoriate. It is the second in a two-part series of AFT papers on diversity; the first examined racial and ethnic diversity.
Colorado's Supreme Court has agreed to hear Ward Churchill's appeal of lower court rulings that upheld his 2007 dismissal from the University of Colorado, The Denver Post reported. Colorado fired the tenured professor in the wake of his controversial comments about the September 11 attacks, which opened the way to an investigation into scholarly misconduct that prompted his dismissal. Churchill challenged the action in a state lawsuit, but after an initial jury ruling in his favor, a judge and then an appeals panel ruled against him.
Enrollment in Reserve Officers Training Corps participation is up 27 percent over the last four years, The Los Angeles Times reported. The decisions of several elite colleges to restore ROTC units, in the wake of the Congressional vote requiring the end of military discrimination against gay people, have attracted widespread attention, but most of those units are expected to be small. Nationally, students are attracted to ROTC by the lucrative scholarships, and do not appear deterred by ongoing military actions in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The U.S. Senate's education panel will hold another in a series of hearings about for-profit colleges next week -- and the committee's Republican members have made clear again that they view the hearings as one-sided and will not participate. Little is known at this point about the June 7 hearing, although its title -- "Drowning in Debt: Financial Outcomes of Students at For-Profit Colleges" -- leaves little to the imagination. Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who heads the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, has been persistently critical of commercial colleges, and has staged a set of hearings dating to last summer that focus on various aspects of their operations. In a letter to Harkin Tuesday, his Republican counterpart, Senator Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, reiterated earlier concerns that the panel is focusing on for-profit colleges when the underlying problems -- "the rising cost of higher education, student debt and student outcomes" -- exist "throughout all sectors of higher education.... [U]ntil the Majority demonstrates a sincere willingness to hold fair proceedings on higher education, we will not participate in any hearings on this issue."
Cornell University has proposed replacing temporary fences on the bridges over gorges that are omnipresent on the campus with wire mesh nets. The fences were installed last year after a cluster of suicides -- in which students killed themselves jumping into the gorges -- stunned the campus, and led to debate over whether fences were needed. The university said it needed to take action to stop suicides, but many complained that the fences were a constant reminder of the suicides and marred the natural beauty of the campus. A statement from Susan Murphy, vice president for student and academic services, said: "We've taken care to submit designs that will preserve the aesthetic value of the bridges and vistas. We believe the designs also will make vulnerable members of our community feel safer and reduce the incidence of a highly lethal and potentially contagious form of suicide."
The question of whether law schools are adequately preparing their graduates for jobs after graduation -- and accurately informing them -- has been fodder for hunger-striking protesters and other critics. Now those issues are a matter for the courts, as a recent law graduate has sued California's Thomas Jefferson School of Law in state court, National Law Journal reported. The class action filed by Anna Alaburda alleges that "[f]or more than 15 years, TJSL has churned out graduates, many of whom have little or no hope of working as attorneys at any point in their careers," and that the school's placement statistics "were false, misleading, and intentionally designed to deceive all who read them." A spokeswoman for Thomas Jefferson told the legal newspaper that the institution follows American Bar Association guidelines on placement data and that its statistics are accurate. "This lawsuit is very much about a larger debate. This is part of the debate about whether it's practical to pursue a graduate degree in these difficult economic times," the spokeswoman said.
Backlash continues against the news that some colleges are paying big bucks for graduation speakers. Legislation has been introduced in New Jersey that would deduct from a state appropriation to a public college or university the size of any fee paid to a graduation speaker, The Star-Ledger reported. The move follows criticism of Rutgers University for paying author Toni Morrison $30,000 and Kean University for paying the singer John Legend $25,000 to appear this year. The universities say that students want big-name speakers. One of the legislators sponsoring the bill said that it should be "honor enough to be asked" to attract speakers.